Strategizing for eCommerce Marketing – What You Need to Succeed
The global population in 2019 is about 7.7 billion. Out of that number 1.92 billion are digital consumers. Yes, around 25 percent of the entire population on Earth are doing their shopping online. By the year 2021, it is expected to rise to 2.14 billion. It shows just how popular eCommerce has become right?
Now is the best time to start an eCommerce business. Know, however, that it’s not enough to just create an online store. The success of your business depends heavily on the efficiency of your marketing strategy. Even established eCommerce businesses need to be diligent with their marketing efforts if they want to boost their sales. And with 12 million to 24 million eCommerce sites all over the world (including small businesses and marketplace giants), the competition is as tough as it gets.
Marketing for eCommerce is not that easy but it’s not rocket science either. Here’s everything you need to know about eMarketing, plus some tips to strengthen your strategy.
What Are eCommerce and eMarketing?
Any commercial transaction that happens online is considered eCommerce. The eCommerce industry does not only include online retailers and online marketplaces that ship out physical products but also those that buy and sell digital “goods” and services. If you have ever ordered an item from Amazon, sold a preloved product on eBay, or purchased eBooks from someone who sells them on Facebook, you are involved in eCommerce.
ECommerce marketing or eMarketing is the act or process of drawing the attention and action of consumers and driving traffic to eCommerce websites. The goals are to gain new customers, keep existing customers, and of course, increase sales. To achieve all these, eCommerce marketers formulate strategies for different campaigns that may involve social media, content email marketing, and more.
How Can I Promote My eCommerce Business?
It doesn’t matter if you have just started your business or you have been in the industry for a while now. The question you ask all the time remains the same – “How can I promote my eCommerce business?” You want the answer to this question because you know this is where it all starts. If you are able to promote your business effectively, brand awareness and sales increase will follow.
There are several ways you can promote your online business. As time passes, you will be able to determine the perfect combination of paid and free methods that deliver the results you want. Here are 10 ways to promote your eCommerce business that you can start doing now.
- Apply SEO to your eCommerce site. Your website should be optimized for SEO if you want Google and other search engines to find you. How do you do this? You need to mention relevant keywords throughout your eCommerce website. Sprinkle, not drown. It wouldn’t do you any good to do keyword stuffing because it won’t improve your ranking anyway and you may even be penalized for that.What you can do is find out about those keywords and other related queries that consumers are using and create content around those words and phrases. Search engines are more likely to rank you high if you are able to provide valuable content instead of just using keywords mindlessly in your website that they don’t make sense anymore.
- Publish blog posts regularly. Maintaining a blog can help promote your business especially if you post entertaining and informative articles that can establish you as an authority in your industry. For instance, if you sell beauty and skincare products then you can blog about the latest trends in skincare or even do some product reviews. You can also write some helpful tips and how-to blog posts.Remember to create content that you would like to read as well. Soon you will see that readers who like what you post are likely to check out the products that you sell and purchase them. Don’t forget to promote your blogs on your social media along with your eCommerce website.
- Participate in relevant forums. A lot of consumers like to join forum discussions. They turn to forums to find out about people’s opinions on trends, products, and more. Forums are where they ask questions, request for assistance and solutions, and talk about their needs.Being present, active, and helpful in online forums can garner you points with potential customers. It’s great for increasing brand awareness. Just remember not to over promote your website or your products. If it’s allowed, you can use the URL of your eCommerce site as your signature.
- Make sure you are present in Google Places and other online directories. If you have a physical store then it’s imperative that you get your website on Google Places as well as other directories on the internet. You need to do this if you wish to get the attention of local customers.These online directories are your modern yellow pages. If you want to be found by customers in your area then all the details they need to get to your business should be available to them online as well.
- Be active on social media. This one is a no-brainer. Where is everyone hanging out these days? They’re on Facebook. They’re on Instagram and Twitter. Obviously, that’s where you should be, too. Don’t use your personal account. Create a page for your eCommerce business that you can use to update people about your latest products.Tweet about your upcoming promos. Create contests on social media. Keep your accounts active and interact with your potential and existing customers in a friendly yet professional manner, especially if they reach out to you through private messages. You don’t have to create accounts on all social media platforms, just the ones where your market is.
Image from: Neil Patel
- Have a unified system for multi-channel communication. As much as possible, you want your consumers to enjoy a seamless experience with your business no matter what channel or device they are using. With an omnichannel approach, you will be able to provide that. Your consumers will be able to switch from one channel to another seamlessly.
- Use AI in your marketing strategy. You can use AI for marketing in a number of ways. From helping you with ad buying to providing personalized customer service and making the whole experience more interactive for your customers, AI has proven its usability and efficiency.It’s for these reasons that a lot of major brands, including Tesla and Starbucks, among others, have included the use of AI in their marketing strategies. Another good example is American Eagle’s chatbot named Aerie which has attracted more customers than their other social media channels put together.
Image from: Convince and Convert
- Consider paid search ads, display ads, and shopping campaigns. These are some of the types of pay-per-click advertisements that are proven to deliver results for eCommerce businesses. Paid search ads appear at the very top of the search results page. They are a ‘text only’ type of ad but they can deliver a high conversion rate. After all, when someone searches for a “pink crossbody bag,” it’s highly likely that he or she is looking to buy one.Display ads are perfect for retargeting customers as they promote products or services that are based on the customers’ browsing history.With shopping campaigns, images of your products directly appear when a user searches for them. For instance, if you have a shopping campaign and a woman searched for that “pink crossbody bag,” she’ll see pictures of the pink crossbody bags you offer and a click on the one she likes will take her directly to your shop.
- Find an influencer who fits your criteria. There is a sea of social media influencers out there but not all of them can effectively promote your eCommerce business. Finding the right influencers for your business takes a lot of effort but they pay-off is going to be worth it. Endorsements done by trusted influencers are deemed less intrusive compared to traditional advertisements. Influencers are on most social media platforms. They are the mom-bloggers who regularly write fun articles about parenting, cooking and more. They are the fashion gurus who post OOTDs on Instagram that hundreds to millions of people like. They are the YouTube celebs with subscribers who patiently await their latest videos. Figure out what kind of influencer your business needs, narrow it down to the ones who match your brand image, and finally, work with the one who can genuinely carry your message to your customers.
- Work on your email marketing strategy. Email may not be as shiny as the newer marketing toys but with the right approach, email marketing can still give you positive results. As a customer yourself, you know that you do open emails if they look interesting. So the key is making sure that you send emails that are engaging and ones that offer some value for your customers.You might want to start with a newsletter campaign that offers amazing content that customers will love.
How Can I Increase my eCommerce Sales?
It is not uncommon for businesses to plateau or even to experience a huge drop in sales. That doesn’t mean you should get discouraged and just give up. There are things that you can do to gain more customers and generate sales. Here are some tips for you.
- Focus on customers that you already have. When things are not so good with your business, it’s easy to think that the reason for that is you are not getting new customers and the ones you have are not enough. That is not always the case.It’s not to say that you shouldn’t work on acquiring new customers but perhaps you should also focus your efforts on retaining the customers that you already have. Loyal customers play a big role in keeping revenues up for an eCommerce site as you can see from this chart from Marketing Charts.
Why is it important to have loyal customers? Well, compared to new customers or those one-time buyers, loyal customers tend to purchase more items every time they shop so they generate a higher revenue every visit.Does that mean you should stop your customer acquisition efforts? Not at all! But do consider how it can be easier and more cost-efficient to take care of your existing customers. After all, they already know their way around your eCommerce website. They know your products, as well as how you handle shipping and all.All you need to do is find ways to improve their user experience. You can start a loyalty program and reward your loyal shoppers every time they make a purchase. You can also give out exclusive discounts. There’s so much you can do to show your appreciation for their loyalty and you’ll reap the rewards of your efforts, too.
- Add interesting and relevant videos to your website. Everyone knows that consumers love videos, but do you know just how much? Consider this, the average user spends about 88 percent more time on websites with videos than those that don’t have videos. It’s not surprising since videos make more of a lasting impression on people. Consumers tend to remember things that they have watched than things they have read about.
Product demonstration videos perform well on eCommerce sites especially if they are done right and the product you are promoting is relatively new. It’s true, you can make a list of all the benefits of the product and explain how your product works. However, most consumers will agree that seeing the product in action even if it’s just through a video is still more effective and more convincing.Note, however, that not all products warrant a video. If you are trying to promote a new jacket, images would suffice – unless the jacket offers unique functions or has special features that a video can capture really well.
- Take your reviews a step further by adding photos of your satisfied customers to their testimonials. Testimonials and reviews from customers and users of your product are an excellent way to gain the trust of prospective customers. However, consumers of today are smart and a bit skeptical. A long text of praises that comes from just a faceless name won’t cut it anymore.If you want to convince people, you have to take your efforts a step further. When you get testimonials from satisfied customers, ask if you can post their names and titles and their photos as well. Having those elements on the testimonials make a huge difference. Take a look at how Pangea Organics posts their testimonials.The testimonialThe testimonial, with the image and name of the user, gives customers a glimpse of what a woman who uses Pangea’s products looks like. And because Autumn happens to be a health coach, people would value her opinion of the products even more. This is the kind of review that can encourage people to try certain products.
- Optimize your eCommerce site for mobile devices. This one right here is not optional – not when about 63 percent of millennials do their shopping on their phones and mobile devices. That’s true. So if you still do not have an optimized mobile website, that may be the very reason your sales are dropping.Also, if you do not have a mobile app yet, you might want to think about building one now. There are a few reasons most customers prefer apps to mobile websites. Many agree that mobile apps are more convenient to use because they are faster, they save your preferences, and there are often exclusive benefits and promos, among others. If you are able to provide your customers with these amazing benefits, then you probably won’t have to deal with issues regarding sales.
- Offer discounts. Sounds simple enough, right? It’s a wonder why not all companies offer their customers some amazing discounts. Giving discounts on some or all of your products can easily draw consumers to your business. You are more likely to get the attention of customers and increase your sales when you offer discounts than when you drop new products.There are many ways to go about discounts. You can do it per category, like offer 20 percent off all footwear, discount on the second item purchased, or the favorite of all customers – site-wide discounts. Check out how Express did it.Now, as a customer, wouldn’t you be curious to know what items you could get at 40 percent off?
- Hold sales during holidays. If there ever was a perfect time to hold a sale, that would be during the holidays. After all, these are the times when almost all people are looking to shop and maybe the only times when shoppers are spending more money than usual.So if you own an eCommerce business, you should hold holiday sales and promote them. Remember that you only have limited time to have these sales and thus a small window of opportunity to increase your revenue. Take advantage of the fact that most shopping malls are jam-packed and consumers find it even more convenient to do their shopping online.Also, don’t forget that your customers are not just buying goods for themselves but for their loved ones as well so be reminded of this when you promote your products. You can market them as “the sweetest gifts for friends,” “the most awesome presents for kids”, and more.
How Do I Make My eCommerce Business Successful?
There is no one set of rules that you can follow that can ensure the success of your eCommerce business. Even with eCommerce marketing, there are trends that come and go. If you want to keep your online business thriving you have to learn to adapt.
It is not enough to have an aesthetically-pleasing and user-friendly website. Along with making sure you offer high-quality products or services, you have to continuously work on your marketing efforts. Your marketing strategy should not be stagnant; it should change along with the evolution of marketplace algorithms.
Having said that, the changes you make with your marketing should not be sporadic. There should still be some kind of structure. It is important that you develop an eCommerce strategy properly. Going through the following processes step by step can help you come up with a good foundational marketing strategy that can last a long time.
How Do You Develop an eCommerce Strategy?
Create an Executive Summary
Assuming that you have fully read and understood the tips and guidelines above, you should now be able to focus on the big picture.
The first step in building an eCommerce marketing plan is writing an executive summary. Make it clear and concise. It should be a detailed yet condensed version of your plan.
Aside from a brief description of your business and your products or services, your executive summary should also include details about your target market.
Who do you cater to presently? Who do you wish to reach out to?
Also, write about your distribution plan, the current retention, referral, and conversion strategy that you have, as well as your marketing assets. Do not forget to include your financial projections as well.
Writing about these details in an executive summary can help put things in perspective. You’ll have a clearer vision of what you are working with and the results you wish to achieve. Once you have your executive plan done, you can then proceed to the next step.
Determine Your Specific Goals
Right from the very beginning, your marketing goals should be specific. Goals like ‘achieving success in a year or two’ is too vague. Be more clear with your objectives. What particular marketing activities will you have in the next 365 days?
Do not do this part of the marketing plan process in a hurry. Take your time to think of all the goals you want to achieve – from the biggest and most obvious ones to the littlest ones that you have in mind. Then, rank those goals according to importance. Which ones should you prioritize? Answering this question will take time but it’s necessary that you get it right.
Some of the goals that you might want to include in your list are:
- Penetration of a particular market
- Expansion for your product distribution
- Launch of your latest product
- Increase repeat purchases
It would be even better if you can add specific numbers to better define your objectives. For instance, writing down “Gain 400 new customers every month” is so much better than “Gain new customers monthly.”
At this point, you shouldn’t bother yourself about how you are going to achieve those objectives just yet. You will get to that in the next few steps. What is important now is that you set the tone for your marketing plan with the goals you have. You might have to tweak those goals, later on, to make them more realistic and attainable, or perhaps kick it up a notch to challenge your team. There’s nothing wrong with that at all!
Write a Company Mission Statement
No matter the size of your business, you should come up with a mission statement. This should be a paragraph or two that sums up everything that is important to your company.
Some of the things that you might want to include in your mission statement are your company history, the vision of the company, and your strengths. If you find it challenging to write a company mission statement from scratch, you can use these questions for reference:
- When, where, and who founded the company?
- Why did the founder start the business and how has it evolved to what it is today?
- What’s the philosophy of the company and what does the business stand for?
- What do you offer?
- What do you want your customers and the whole industry to know about you?
- What makes your products or services special in comparison to your competitors?
- What are your advantages over your competitors?
Once you have answered these questions, you will find it easier to come up with a clear mission statement that you can impart with everyone in the team.
Come Up With a Value Proposition
You might be wondering, “Isn’t a value proposition almost the same as a mission statement?” Well, yes and no.
A value proposition aims to provide consumers with a clear understanding of the value you can offer them. Not only will it state what products or services you offer but how those products or services can meet the needs of customers, how they can solve certain problems and what the specific benefits or features are.
In short, it’s all about why customers should choose to purchase from you and not your competitors.
In your website, your value proposition should be one of the very first things your visitors would notice on your home page. It’s also wise to have the value proposition posted in all the entry points of your eCommerce site.
Identify Your Market and Learn Everything About Them
You have now reached the part of the planning when you need to determine all the details you can about your target customers.
The basic demographics include age, gender, location, family status, income, and more. In addition to these, you should also take note of important psychographic information such as interests, hobbies preferred websites, lifestyle, and TV shows or movies, among others.
These elements should be taken into consideration when you are planning your brand positioning and when you are creating advertisements and other promotional materials. These are also big factors as to which markets you should penetrate.
Upon identifying your target market and understanding their “culture,” you would be better equipped when you approach them. You can then speak their language and engage them better.
Perform a Situational Analysis or Inventory
This is the stage when you need to see where your business is at the time you are formulating a plan.
If your business has just started, the analysis you’ll conduct will help you get a grasp of the market you are about to get into. If your eCommerce business has been running for a while now, this would be like a general inventory to help you see what is working for your business, what needs to be improved, and what needs to be scrapped completely.
Make an analysis of the products you are offering right now. What are its attributes? What are their prices at all levels of distribution? Also, take note of the marketing tactics you have performed and whether or not they have delivered your expectations. You need to conduct an analysis of your financial condition as well – your current sales, your marketing expenses, and more.
If you are working with third-party marketplaces, you need to evaluate how that distribution channel is working. As for your website, you need to figure out the traffic sources that have given you the highest sales in the past.
It’s also important that you take the time to study your competition. What’s their target market? What products do they offer and how are they priced compared to your products? What distribution channels do they use and how do they promote their brand? Making a comparative analysis will help you have a better understanding of how your eCommerce business is really doing.
There is going to be a lot of information to take in, so it would be wise to create a summary that you can use when you discuss things with your team.
Fine-Tune Your Pricing Strategy
This is the part of your marketing plan when you determine how your product pricing would help you with the positioning you want.
When determining your pricing you must use what you have gathered from the situational analysis you have conducted. Aside from considering your positioning, location, and other factors, think about your distribution partners, too. Make sure that you do not sell significantly lower than your partners or you might end up losing those partnerships.
Any changes you make with the pricing should be discussed with your distribution partners, too.
Work on Your Fulfillment or Distribution Plan
At this point, you are ready to establish where and how your customers can buy your product. If you are starting with a small business, you might think that there’s no real reason for you to do this part. That’s not true because no matter the size of your business, you should clearly understand, from the beginning, the process and requirements of order fulfillment and distribution.
Yes, you may be personally doing the packing and shipping of your products right now but if you intend for your business to grow (and why shouldn’t you?) then you should be ready to oversee a team who would handle this part of the business.
If you don’t see yourself doing that, you might want to consider working with a third party fulfillment business. But even with that, you have to know how things work because you need to ensure that it can meet the demand that will come with the marketing boost you are going to do. You do not want to find yourself in a situation where you are doing great with your sales but you’re lagging behind in your order fulfillment. Customers won’t like that.
Once you have your plans written down, you can start refining them. You might need to make adjustments over time as well.
Strategize Your Sales and Lead Generation Plan
By now, you should already have a clear grasp of the ins and outs of your eCommerce business. It’s finally time to get your creative juices flowing. Remember that there’s an unlimited number of ways you can do eCommerce marketing, and while the thought may seem daunting, it is actually a good thing.
If you are a visual learner, you can check out the image below that depicts a simple funnel that shows website visitors at the top until they reach the point where they get converted into customers. Now, it is up to you and your marketing team to come up with campaign strategies that would help guide those prospects through the funnel. You also need to determine where those strategies fit in your funnel.
For instance, posting organic content can greatly help with brand awareness but they are not for immediate conversions, so they would work well at the top of the funnel. Remember that your goal is to get your web visitors to the bottom of the funnel where they would take action.
Image from Big Commerce
Utilize an Accurate Reporting Software
You are probably excited about this marketing revamp that you are doing. But before you get a little carried away, do make sure that you have the technology to track and measure how effective those marketing efforts are.
Can you use it to determine your marketing strategies’ ROI?
If you are not sure, there’s a big chance that the tool you have right now can’t deliver what you need. Before you implement the marketing changes, get the right tools for your business. Otherwise, you are just putting your efforts into waste because you won’t even know if they’re working! Even if you’re on a tight budget, there’s no reason for you to use tools that are insufficient because there are tools out there that are available for free.
Test Your Strategies
Congratulations! You have gone through most of the stages of planning and by now you are probably excited to reap the rewards of your hard work.
Before you go all out and spend all your marketing budget on your new strategies, you might want to take time to test them first. Allot a certain amount of your budget to test the waters. You don’t have to spend too much or dive right into a really large market.
You can try running test cases in a smaller market. Doing so can help you establish the need for an increase in budget and figure out if there’s a need for some tweaking somewhere in your strategies. Testing may cost you time, money, and effort but it’s also going to save you from trouble later on.
Refine Your eMarketing Strategy
Now that you are done testing your strategy, you are ready for the final stage before you launch your strategy. You already know what works, what needs to be improved, and more.
So what do you need to do now? You can start refining your strategies and prepare for the rollout. Think of it as a fine-tuning for your car before a really long drive. It’s just making sure everything works properly. It’s also time to consider other strategies now that you have your initial ones ready. You might want to think about offering referral discounts or perhaps look into partnerships and joint ventures.
Truly, the possibilities you can explore for your eCommerce marketing strategies are endless.
Right now you are probably thinking that there’s so much work that goes into marketing for eCommerce. You are not wrong. This is just the beginning – but it is an exciting one!
ECommerce marketing is like a never-ending cycle because even if you have your strategies down now, after a while there will be a need for new marketing strategies. Half of the job of eCommerce marketers is keeping up with trends, remember?
You do not have to worry about it now though. As long as you go through every planning stage thoroughly and you remain creative, detail-oriented, and organized, there’s no reason for things to go wrong.
Whether you are a budding entrepreneur or an established eCommerce business with multiple channels, remember that you should never run your business without a complete and detailed strategy for marketing.
You are now equipped with the knowledge on how to strategize for your eCommerce marketing and soon enough you will start noticing an increase in brand awareness and revenue.